Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paperman - Full Animated Short Film

Seriously adorable, guys.  Also, set in Chicago!  That is the L.

On Valentine's Day Gifts

If you've been dying to hear the second part of my roadtrip story (which I doubt, because nobody comments), here is a preview:

Build your own high-quality photo books at

I made this photo book to give to my fiance on Valentine's Day.  Finally, all those pictures I took will be put to good use!!  I promise I'm working on the second half of said blog post, full of photos and exciting things.

Additionally, if you have NO IDEA what to give to your significant other for Valentine's Day, you should try to scoop up a Groupon or deal for one of these photo books.  Cost-efficient, thoughtful, and sentimental.  Plus, it's fun to personalize!

Walking On Ice

At least in the city (downtown), they salt the streets and sidewalks to prevent too much slipping.  This doesn't mean that ice is non-existent, and I'm pretty paranoid about falling on my butt on those tiny patches (it usually gathers wherever there would be a little puddle, and right off the edge of the curb so if you're not looking when you step into the street, you might slide onto your butt).  Lately, the weather has been very odd--warm and humid, raining, and then freezing cold and snowing.  These varied conditions created a good amount of ice!  Enter: Lifehacker.  This infographic was pretty useful to me (though the comments on the page said otherwise).  I haven't put it to the test yet, but I'm going to keep it in mind.

Additionally, a few other people have recommended Yaktrax to me.  I don't personally own them, but these recs come from reputable sources, so I would trust them.  I have a couple pairs of snowboots I usually wear when it's icy or snowing to avoid slipping, but they still slide around a little bit.  Everyone stylish and hip here swears by Hunters.  I have a pair, but I did slide a little on the ice.  They aren't entirely accident-proof, but they are stylish.  Mine are purple--most people have black and other subdued colors.  Eh, who wants to wear black all winter?!  Those boots are great for keeping your feet dry, but I do recommend getting the fleece liners to keep them warm: Hunters alone are not enough, even with wool socks!

What are your tried and true tricks for not falling on the ice?

Monday, January 28, 2013

On fog (belated post)

Apparently this post never published! It's from Feb. 2nd.

This is the view outside right now. Chicago, I'll never understand your weather.

On Two Lives

Today I realized the 6 month mark of moving to Chicago came and went without any celebration and fanfare.  We made it here on August 22nd, and it is now nearly February.  Looking back, I have to say I haven't been as homesick as I previously thought.  Having never lived anywhere but the warm sunny confines of southern California, I thought this drastic change in lifestyle would definitely leave me missing home.  I will say that while I do miss my flip flops, I haven't felt that heart-squeezing homesickness as often as I thought I would.

Part of it has to do with something I realized over this past weekend when we were back for my friend's wedding: my fiance and I are living two very full and complete lives.  We quickly built a new social circle, routines, and a home here in Chicago.  This somehow did not discount the life we left behind--on pause--in San Diego.  That's the thing about San Diego.  We go back and it's like we never left; all of our friends are there from high school (usually back for the same holiday or event we are there for), so it feels just like home again.  We have a full group of friends at home, and a full life here as well.  Instead of whining about how I never see this person or that enough, I really should be utterly thankful.

So here it is: I am grateful that my biggest complaint (aside from the cold) is that I don't get enough time with either my friends here in Chicago or my friends back home in California.  I'm grateful that I have two full lives to live in different parts of the country, and when I'm back in either place, it feels right.  I'm grateful to have the relationships I do and the comfortable, happy life I am leading.  I do know that this time in Chicago is not permanent, so I'm happy to savor it now.

On Weddings (and Saving Money)

I'm back from the wedding in California (but sick from all the traveling and the rushed weekend), and now I have weddings on the brain.  Luckily, 100 Layer Cake just put up this post on borrowed bridesmaids dresses that is genius.  I'm seriously going to consider this one, because they also have the option to buy.  The styles are pretty nice, too.  That's for you, bridesmaids who might not agree with my style and don't want to waste money on a dress!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow day

Today I had my first snowy day with snowfall collected on the ground!! I learned a lot of valuable lessons.
-that brown stuff in the road? It's not gravel, and they didn't just plow the roads really well. That's very dirty snow.
-snow is pretty! But even in snow boots, if it's packed and frozen, it is SLIPPERY.
-They salt the sidewalks some places, so you have to be careful walking the dog (it can hurt their paws). Also, it can ruin your shoes according to the locals (leather and suede ones, supposedly). This WILL save you from slipping and cracking your skull open.
-Wear material that isn't knit as your outerwear. The snowflakes stick to my knit panda hat and I have to shake off like a dog before stepping inside.

This weekend I'm back in San Diego for a whirlwind trip! My good friend from high school is getting married, so we'll get a brief respite from the cold.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snowball fight!!!!

Here is my first experience of freshly fallen snow on the ground!! I'll post more later on what below zero feels like, but for now just imagine a fully grown woman scooping up snow from planters on the side of the road and throwing handfuls at her friends. Then picture this same adult carrying pictured snowball up an elevator ride to throw said snowball at her fiance, warmly tucked away in their apartment. Stay joyful, friends.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My favorite form of escapism: Books

Finally saw "The Hobbit" tonight!  I've wanted to but put it off until after I finished the book (as a LOTR fan, I was discouraged from reading it initially by a friend who said that it wasn't worth reading...after having read it, I wholeheartedly disagree.  I love the lighter writing style, though it does take some time getting used to), and then life in general got in the way.  But I saw it!  I came out satisfied, though I can't understand why they're splitting it into three movies.  Nine hours?  That's a lot of time for a short book such as The Hobbit.  Anyway, I've long since learned not to compare books to their movie versions because they are always disappointing in some way (e.g., Harry Potter books), but stand well in their own right.  The sole exception to this is The Princess Bride, which is both a brilliant book and movie.  Anyway, back to "The Hobbit."

Photo from Hobbiton Tours...which...can I go??

I will admit that my eyes were shining at that first glimpse of the Shire at the beginning of the movie, which I know makes me sound silly and nerdy but for some reason seeing it on screen feels a little like coming home.      No?  You don't feel like the Shire is your home?  I don't in the real sense (that would make me rather deluded), but I get that same surge of warmth in my heart that I feel when I see the San Diego skyline from an airplane.  It's amazing that the book gives me this feeling--that my imaginings of it were so vivid that it feels like home.
I think it's because I fall for books hard--I get lost in them for hours or days at a time and coming back to the real world almost hurts.  It's fairly challenging for any piece of fiction, but I am a fan of fantasy books.  This makes it even harder, as you're stuck in the real world rather than some imagined land that a brilliant author dreamed up (Ursula LeGuin, anyone?).

Does anybody else get this way when they read a good book?  

Thursday, January 17, 2013


A view from the park by our place--looking across the lake
Being new to the blogging scene, I've just recently started clicking around to find interesting reads.  A few of the blogs I've started following (check out "Interesting Reads" on the right side) are written accounts of people's explorations through other cities worldwide!  I love being able to identify with that nervous excitement of being in a new city and getting to know it intimiately.  Some of the ones that really have me wishing I could travel more include Oh Happy Day's posts from her time living in Paris, and Lost in Cheeseland, an entire blog of one woman's life in the City of Light.  These blogs definitely give me a taste of picking up and moving to Europe at a fraction of the cost!
These blogs also remind me to not get too caught up in the day to day.  During our first couple months here, I remained unemployed for a while just settling into the new city, getting our apartment together, and job hunting.  During these weeks, I walked around the city and really took advantage of living downtown.  Then I got a full-time job again, and between running around all day in the classroom and outside with the children, I just got too tired to do small things, even run errands (this is the epitome of lazy, as the grocery store is across the street from my apartment building).
 These bloggers, on the other hand, truly take advantage of living in Paris, exploring the city, and making little shops their own.  I love the idea of being able to say that a particular bakery is "my" bakery, when certain stores have personal meaning.  These blogs inspire me to continue my adventures in this new city, find new places to call my own, and above all, use the breadmaker I got for Christmas--because fresh bread looks so beautiful in all their photos and I heart carbs.  
Back on the topic of wanderlust--for those of you wishing you could see more of this big city in the Midwest,  here are some photos from my wandering.  
Michigan Ave. during the holidays
A colonnade in Grant Park

Monday, January 14, 2013

Layering for Weather

This blog post may seem silly to most people from these colder climes, but I guarantee this is useful information for people from warmer places (like me).  After much trial and error, I have figured out how to appropriately layer for different temperatures.  Granted, Chicago's winter thus far has been fairly mild (just cold, not too much snow), so maybe I'll be screwed when the snow/ice really starts to hit.  Anyway, this is what I have so far:
Eddie Bauer Northern Aurora Down Jacket in Capri Blue, with my Modcloth owl  mittens (gift)
-Eddie Bauer coat (to my waist) with fur-edged hood, guaranteed good for 0-20 degree weather

-J. Crew Factory belted puffer coat: I was really opposed to wearing these because I think they look like a black version of the Michelin man, but I see why they are necessary now!  The only part of my body that gets cold when I wear this coat is between my boots and my coat...and I have legwarmers now to remedy that.

-CK belted puffer coat: looks similar to above but has fur around the hood.  My mom gave this to me for Christmas!

-a bunch of California winter coats (read: not thickly lined, with varying wool weights).  Okay, I'll be honest, some of these are cotton.  I don't wear those ones much, though...

-long underwear (I don't wear these too often yet, but I have both Cuddl Duds and REI brand.  I wore the Cuddl Duds under thick leggings and had no issues getting the layers on or off because they are silk, and they didn't slip and slide around under my clothes)

-down vest that folds up really small into a bag that it comes with (used frequently)

Available on Amazon (men's and women's are exactly the same, except women's come in different girly colors)

-180 earmuffs (that's the brand), which go behind your ears like those erstwhile popular Sony headphones.  These are most useful for when I wear glasses or don't feel like wearing a hat (because it seriously feels like your ears will fall off when you're walking around in the cold for extended periods of time)

-a variety of
  • scarves
  • hats: knit hats for everyday, a Goorin Bros. wool hat (I wore this last night in the rain and stayed so dry! Only issue is my ears get a little cold, but I could easily put a beanie on under it to fix this), and a variety of warmer hats (including a Russian or Fargo hat for painfully cold days, a knit hat that looks like a deer's face for when I'm sad about the cold)
  • gloves: leather gloves for fall, North Face gloves for playing in the snow/serious winter (they were around $50 retail at the North Face store on Michigan Ave.), knit gloves with cute patterns for slightly warmer weather or when I know I'll tuck my hands into my pockets often

When we first moved here in August, I went to Nordstrom Rack and bought the down vest.  It was seriously the best purchase I've made thus far.  It meant I could wear all my existing coats, and added warmth without too much bulk.  Best of all, since I was crazy paranoid about freezing to death, I could tuck it (in its convenient bag) into every purse I carried and not have to worry about the temperature dropping too far at night and getting cold!  I seriously carried it from the end of August (started getting cold) til I started wearing it every day or using my down coats.  That's how nervous this California girl felt about her first real winter.

Anyway, here is the breakdown of my outerwear by temperature:

  • 40-49 degrees: California winter coat, scarf, maybe thin gloves if I'm walking far.
  • 30-39 degrees: down vest under California winter coat, gloves, earmuffs or hat.  Closer to 30 and I'll probably bring a scarf along just in case.
  • 20-29 degrees: Luckily, my Eddie Bauer coat told me exactly what temperature at which to wear it!  I'll pick one of the below:
    • Eddie Bauer down coat by itself (sometimes I'll sweat in this, though).  Definitely earmuffs or hat, unless I put my hood on.  Leather gloves at the lightest (closer to 20 degrees, I'd put on my North Face gloves...or if I think there's a potential to play in the snow!!)
    • sweater, down vest, California winter coat.  The issue with the down vest is that it doesn't have sleeves, so my arms sometimes get cold when those Chicago winds blow up loose sleeves.  Thus, you have to wear a cardigan or sweater under the vest!  +scarf, hat or earmuffs, and North Face gloves (since the coat itself isn't as warm, I make sure my extremities are).
  • 10-18 degrees: this is damn cold.  These are the days I walk outside and mutter an expletive to myself, then pull my hood on and trudge to work, watching for ice.
    • Eddie Bauer down coat, high boots (very cold legs otherwise!), legwarmers or long underwear (if I'm walking far).  Scarf, hat, North Face gloves.
    • Either puffy coat, scarf, hat, any gloves (these long coats keep most of my body warm and I can tuck my hands into the fleece-lined pockets!)
  • 10 degrees or below: No.  Don't go outside.  That's not normal.  Okay, maybe I haven't experienced this too much yet (ignoring windchill).  I haven't yet felt the need to wear my down vest under my down coats, so I think so far I'm okay...and the coldest it has hit when I was outside was -8, I believe.
To be honest, the windchill is what is the worst part--it might actually be in the teens, but it feels WAY COLDER.  I still can't wrap my head around what this means, other than it makes me miserable.  Also, obviously this is just what I have found helpful, and it might be different for others.  I tend to get really hot when I'm moving around a lot, so I'll layer up and prefer to take off layers as I walk.  Others prefer just one thick layer so they don't have to worry about the hours it takes to put them all back on.

As a sidenote, I work with children--1-2 year olds.  They don't layer quite as much, though I have seen a few children who wear long underwear.  Usually they're just in big puffy coats, hats, and mittens when we're running around!  Additionally, we don't go out if it's below 32 degrees.  This is drastically different from working with children of this age in California, where we were blissfully barefoot and outdoors through most of the "winter."

What do you wear in the winter?  Any thoughts from local Chicagoans or people who grew up in cold areas?  Was this helpful to anybody moving to colder climes?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Knee Deep in Wedding Planning

The Internet is a wonderful thing, guys. First off, I wouldn't be sharing these inconsequential details of my life with you all over the world.  Secondly, I wouldn't be planning my two-point-five-years-away wedding so efficiently.

 I should start by saying that I'm not the type of girl who had a wedding binder growing up.  Sure, I know my general preferences (a shade of purple for the bridesmaids), but no extreme details (like what the centerpiece should look like and where to buy those little gems or the floating candles).  Then the magical website called Pinterest came along, and lo and behold, EVERYTHING beautiful and wonderful is just one click away from inspiring you.  But wait--I wasn't engaged yet.  I also didn't want to be creepy, online friends.  I was biding my time, clicking "Like" for all the pretty wedding pins, until I was engaged.  THEN I made my crazy wedding board and pinned oh, 200 images or so in a short span of time.  Anyway, that's the extent of the wedding planning I did to this point.

Then I found The Knot app on the iPad.  Um, this is like Pinterest, but all weddings, and all the time.   I skimmed over venues and looked at the fun details (see: dress, bridesmaid gifts), but mostly just messed around.  More recently (as time tends to pass when you're not paying attention), I've started looking at venues more seriously as the impending year 2015 is looming.  I even made a Google Drive spreadsheet laying out the venues I like and important details (like how much open bar costs) about each one.

Then my fiance sent me this:

 Gee, I feel pretty dumb.  Of course Google already had something convenient for me to use for EVERY ASPECT OF MY WEDDING.  Well, I'll leave the less fun spreadsheets (see: Budget, Guest List) for later and focus on the fun ones (see: Music List).

For you, fellow planners.  In case you haven't done all that work yet. Oh, and remind me to tell you about my dress later, if you are curious.  Because that's one thing I did 2.5 years ahead of the event--bought a dress.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I have experienced more weather here in the past two months than in a lifetime in California.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pandora's Box

Bad news, Interwebs: I have opened the fabled Pandora's box of wedding planning by starting to look into venues in my lovely hometown of San Diego, CA. Just reception sites, but still...any recs would be greatly appreciated. Keep in mind the wedding will likely be in September of 2015, so I have loads of time...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Trek: Part 1

As the entire premise of this blog suggests, I am not native to this city of Chicago.  In fact, I originally grew up in a wonderful place called San Diego, where I am convinced time stands still--the radio stations still play the same music from 10 years ago, all of my favorite places still stand, and many of my high school friends are still there and when we get together I know why I've always called that place my home.  I'm actually almost positive San Diego is like that little Irish town from that old movie that disappears into the mist and only comes back every 100 years or so, completely untouched by the rest of the world and thus unchanged. Anybody?  No?  I'm not sure what it's called, either.
Anyway, I'm not from here.  I'm a born and raised California girl at heart, and when the Beach Boys sing that song, I puff out my chest and smile proudly, then do a little dance that can only be done to catchy Beach Boys songs.  Thus, when my now fiance told me the news that it was Chicago or bust (rather than UCLA, our mutual alma mater but unfortunately not as high in the business school rankings as U of Chicago), I sighed, packed up all of my things, and said farewell to California.

[This will be a two-part post because frankly, I don't know how interested you'll be in reading all of it at once, and my OCD nature prevents me from leaving things unfinished...thus, for you fellow people who feel the need to read it all, I'll break it up.]

We started our drive at the end of August and laid out our 4-day journey to the pinnacle of Mt., that's a different journey, now that I think about it.  I digress.  Our journey from San Diego to Chicago could have gone along the northern route (stopping in Colorado, going through Wyoming, and hitting up Kansas City for BBQ), or the southern route (Arizona, New Mexico, then curving up through OKC and St. Louis).  We ultimately settled on the southern route because it meant each leg of our drive was 8 hours or less, and the simple idea of having to be in a car for 13 hours or so (San Diego -> Denver) made me want to punch out a window.  It was definitely a good call.
I should clarify: my then boyfriend (now fiance) and I lived in different cities for the entirety of our relationship.  I'll tell you our love story in a bit, but suffice it to say, coordinating moving his stuff and then my stuff across the country...not an easy logistical task.
Most of our things were packed up in a Pod (they are these boxes you pack yourself and other people drive them across the country for was the cheapest option we could find); first his things, then mine a few weeks later.  The rest went into my Corolla, with Professor X (my wonderful dwarf hamster) strapped into the middle seat (literally), and nestled in between two dining room chairs.  Yes, we drove two full-size chairs across the country in my backseat.  I crafted a sunshade for the fine Professor, as obviously a hamster should not be sitting in the sun all day.  After a few tearful goodbyes (on my end), we were off!

The first leg of our trip was from San Diego to Sedona, AZ.  Have you ever been there?  It's lovely red rock country.  I've never seen land like that before...California gets rocky sometimes, but doesn't have that brilliant  ochre contrasted against the blue sky.  It was unbelievable.  It was basically a one road town with a lane in each direction, and one long, curving road that took us through all the pretty scenery.  We stayed at some little hotel (with Professor X comfortably on the dresser) and reveled in finally being in the same city.

You know how at Disney's California Adventure they have the new Carsland?  

Yeah, this whole place looks like Radiator Springs.

That brings us to the end of this part of the journey!  I feel a little like Tolkien, riding out a long and complex story in multiple pieces...I don't think I'm aiming for a trilogy here, but if I put enough pictures, maybe that'll be necessary!  Additionally, less walking.  Especially less walking than The Two Towers.  
Also, no lembas.  I definitely packed a lot of snacks, but they were mostly of the beef jerky and trail mix variety.


Here she is, my lovely little puppy. She's half beagle and (we think) half miniature pinscher, which is adorably called a "meagle" in the designer dog breeding world, apparently. She's just over 1.5 years old.

The Beginning

Once upon a time I lived in a wonderful place called California.  Los Angeles, specifically, and if you don't like that place then I swear to you that you just haven't found the right neighborhood yet.  I lived a happy life with a wonderful roommate, and while I didn't have a dog, I did have a dwarf hamster named Professor Xavier.  I had a job I loved and adventures befitting a girl of her mid-20s in a young city.  All of these things drastically changed, and I still vacillate back and forth between whether it was a good thing or not.  I think overall it was good.  Well, my boyfriend (I'll tell you our romantic story later) got into the University of Chicago's prestigious Booth Business School, proposed to me, and many miles later (I don't know how many because I fell asleep most of the drive) I ended up here, in Chicago.  It's cold here and very different, and while it has already been some five months, I think it's a good idea to chronicle our time here in some way.
Plus, here is a wonderful venue to post pictures of our dog, Arwen!  I'm not sure how long this blogging thing will last or if such a public venue will suit me, but sometimes public journals are engaging enough to succeed, right?  Well, we'll see.